FF and Greens must bow out while sanity still prevails
OPINION:Political crackpots are sensing opportunity amid chaos – they must not be allowed to prevail
IT SAYS a lot for the people of the Republic that Fine Gael and Labour are still ahead in the opinion polls, rather than some crackpot outfit (or amalgam of them) that has managed to popularise itself by raging against the machine and promising to deliver paradise if elected.
Whether the polls reflect a natural conservatism or an innate common sense on the part of the electorate is irrelevant – that liberal democracy is not suffering wholesale desertion is what matters.
For more than a year now, I have spent most of my working weeks mixing with people from many parts of Ireland. I have had time to gauge the public mood. There is deep anger and a feeling of helplessness; a fear of the future and a profound sense of betrayal. There is, to a worrying degree, disillusionment with the whole political system.
The Irish people feel humiliated. All of this amounts to a perilous mixture. Regardless of the current polls, all it needs is an understanding of human nature and a passing knowledge of modern history to appreciate that there can be no complacency among liberal democrats.
In the current climate, inherent conservatism can easily evaporate, and common sense can suddenly become decidedly uncommon. Political crackpots – mostly of the gobshite Marxist variety, as John Waters so aptly put it – are sensing an opportunity. They are eager to take advantage of the public mood; queuing up to offer pain-free solutions; believing that the moment may have come for them to realise their version of utopia.
If we are not careful, they could pull it off. If the polls begin to drift in the wrong direction, opportunists of all sorts will soon be tripping over themselves to join the crackpots, elevating them from a noisy sideshow into a force to be reckoned with.
What makes these people particularly dangerous is the respectability being conferred upon them by a few opinion-formers who seem to be preaching the same message.
Sadly, European history is littered with examples of well-educated buffoons and well-placed naive people paving the way to power for some of the most outlandish (and often most murderous) regimes.
There is a dangerous strand within closeted elites that believes humanity can operate to a grand theory, which suits the crackpots just fine – up to a certain point – for it is precisely what they believe.
By the time the ivory tower inhabitant realises just how much his half-baked theory differs from that of the crackpot (presuming that it does differ) it is usually too late to matter. Years after ordinary people in the West had nailed Stalin for the mass-murdering thug that he was, professorial and artistic types were still returning from visits to the USSR singing Uncle Joe’s praises and lauding the genius of the Soviet system.
The same was true of Mao Zedong and his little red book of banalities – although not of Hitler, or at least not to anywhere near the same extent. Too many people had barely escaped Germany, or one of its conquered neighbours, by the skin of their teeth to spread the word about the true nature of Nazism for there to be much room for illusions.
Still, even Hitler had his fair share of admirers in the closeted upper echelons of British and other European societies, and was never short of opportunist collaborators amongst the intellectual, artistic and social elites of conquered nations.
Most ordinary people – and by that I mean those who have to wrestle daily with the ground-floor complexities of life – are harder to convince of the merits of grand theories or of the credentials of would-be saviours. Not least because basic economics dictate that they will be stuck with the outcomes.
Ordinary people know that messiahs do not exist, and that devils can be common as flies in a sticky climate.
In short, they are mostly realists because they have always had to be. But at times like this, they too can be swayed by crackpots offering easy solutions, particularly if these appear to be finding some echo amongst the elites.
The Irish public is being urged to “dismantle the power structures”, “take back the nation”, and “reclaim the Republic” by people who, given half a chance, would reduce the country to a perpetually bankrupt, pariah state. For just a start, they would default on international loans; leave the EU; and set about creating some pseudo-Marxist dystopia (a North Korea without the military hardware, a Cuba without the sun).
Standing beside these crackpots, and not always just metaphorically, mouthing similar abstract banalities, are opinion-formers who, I presume, do not share the same objectives. Yet how is the public supposed to differentiate between them? Who do the opinion-formers think the crackpots will be claiming as allies in their election material, and name-checking when knocking on the doors asking for votes?
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil and the Greens are still clinging to office, like a couple of corpses refusing to leave the morgue. The best service they can do the Republic is resign now, and permit an election while liberal democracy is still to the fore.